Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Does this conference remind you of any other?



(click to enlarge)

Food for Thought



Comic from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin.
(click for enlarged image)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

September 16, 2010
Vol. 187, No. 31

GENERAL COMMENTS
This issue features a “Why Did This Happen to Me?” cover with a pretty girl with a sad expression looking up at a magic marker rain cloud raining 13 magic marker raindrops and a magic marker lightning bolt. I mean, did her boyfriend forget to call, or is she worried about why she didn’t get invited to a party?

The cover appropriately reflects what’s inside. With one exception (See ViSION CHECK by Hyveth Williams) there isn’t much that seems really new, really serious, really thought provoking. In short, I read this issue because I review the Review. As I was doing my job, I kept thinking about the editors and staff doing what they have to do, week after week, month after month.

I wondered what they thought when they “put this issue to bed”? Were they exhausted, pleased, frustrated, thankful? Is three Reviews a month plus World one publication too many? Is consistent quality a concern? Just asking.

WORLD NEWS AND PERSPECTIVES
Ray McAllister is the first blind student to graduate from the SDA Theological Seminary with a PhD. (More about him later)

Debbie Higgens will oversee “The Kilns”, home of C. S. Lewis in Oxford England, for the next two years.

Carmelle Bussey, a Southern Adventist University graduate, discusses her time spent as a counselor at a National Camp for the Blind at the Port Carling, Ontario, Canada.

COMMENT
Roy, I know the feeling you describe in BEATEN DOWN BY THE CULTURE. Adams writes:

“You want to respond but, if you’re like me, you don’t, reasoning: There’s no one “home,” anyway, to take my call; and what’s a single letter among the thousands they receive? Moreover, with my faith being assaulted at every turn and in a thousand ways, how many letters can I write? And, at any rate, who can stop this determined bandwagon in its track? It’s a sign of tiredness, of the force of the culture beating us down.”

I too feel beaten down, but it’s by that “determined bandwagon”, official Adventist culture. But even though “my faith is being assaulted at every turn”, I am determined to persevere. My reviews are letters delivered to you, four times a month. I too am tired, but as you say, “Truth is stubborn and resilient. The [current Adventist] culture may try to smother it, but, like the Phoenix of ancient legend, it always rises back.”

REVIEWS
In FAITHFUL LIKE JACOB, Lael Caesar answers the question, “How does Jacob get here from there—from schemer and exploiter to minister of grace and voice of prophecy?”

Jimmy Phillips makes an important point in MORE LIKE FALLING IN LOVE, PART 2.

“Acting unselfishly for your mate is not for the purpose of earning their love. Why would it be? You don’t have to earn it; he/she already loves you. Rather, the reason we humble ourselves in service is because we value their happiness more than anything else. Somewhere in here the “debate” about faith versus works gains some clarity.”

In A GLIMPSE BEHIND THE CURTAIN Ellen White discusses sin.

“Sin is an intruder, for whose presence no reason can be given. It is mysterious, unaccountable; to excuse it is to defend it. Could excuse for it be found, or cause be shown for its existence, it would cease to be sin. Our only definition of sin is that given in the word of God; it is “the transgression of the law”; it is the outworking of a principle at war with the great law of love which is the foundation of the divine government.”

James Londis discusses suffering in the cover feature, WHY DID THIS HAPPEN TO ME?

“While God does not plan everything that happens, nothing that happens is outside God’s plan. No divine script is programming our days. Liberty (and to a great extent, contingency) defines human life. God’s “plan” can be summed up as His overarching desire that each of us make choices in harmony with love and truth, and that we exercise our freedom courageously so that we can enjoy even more freedom.”

In THE MINISTRY OF QUIET, Clair Johnson reflects that when we visit the sick and shut-ins, sometimes “what we don’t say is the most important thing”.

“I wonder how my visits affect those I seek to encourage. Are my words shouting so loudly that people cannot hear me? Am I really there for the right reason? Have I truly encouraged and helped someone along the way to wellness and wholeness?

Christina Hudgins reports on the way the Atholton Adventist Church in Columbia, Maryland, cares for young adults who are away from home. PRAYER4U focuses on three main areas:

Prayer—Parents and other concerned adults may no longer be in a position to instruct and counsel young adults directly, but through prayer they can ask God to guide, protect, and shelter the youth.

Contact—Staying in touch with each young adult at least once a month via e-mail, cards, and text messages, or calling them on the phone, lets them know adult church members care about them.

Packages—Twice during the school year church members send care packages, keeping individual tastes and preferences in mind.

VISION CHECK by Hyveth Williams is this issue’s MUST READ. I admire Hyveth for using her column to remind all of us that prejudice is blinding.

“I met an incredible man in Sabbath school named Ray McAllister. In 1999 he received a Master of Divinity with special emphasis in Old Testament Theology from our Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University. On August 1, 2010, Ray graduated to a thunderous standing ovation of his peers and professors with a doctorate in Old Testament and a cognate in Religious Education. He’s proficient in several ancient biblical languages, such as Hebrew and Aramaic, as well as French and German—despite being totally blind.

“Problem is, Ray doesn’t have a job. Despite his outstanding achievements and miraculous journey, no one has offered him anything. In fact, after the public applause of graduation passed into memory he said, without a hint of recrimination, that several potential employers have given him good reasons why he just wouldn’t fit into the Adventist ministry—not the least of which is the fact that he’s blind. ‘Sally and I will be a pastor for free. We are willing to offer ourselves as two for one,” said this former Sabbath school teacher and available itinerant preacher. “But we’re not desperate. Our hope is in the goodness of God who called us to this ministry.’

“No theology or church doctrine bars blind persons from serving our church and leading physically sighted people to Jesus Christ. If the Michigan Commission for the Blind and Christian Record Services recognize the talents and potential in Ray, surely someone in our church would be willing to put him to work for our Lord’s sake! Perhaps some have not come forward to offer the McAllisters employment in churches or universities because they are unaware of this jewel waiting to shine for Jesus.

“Perhaps someone reading this column [or blog] has the vision and imagination to ‘see’ where they can use their unique talents to build up God’s kingdom.”

SECOND SPRING is Andy Nash’s determined effort to make his dream home his “dream home” again. “The For Sale sign still remains out front, but we’re not going to sit here and live for the future. We’re going to live for the moment.”

Gerald A. Klingbeil argues that God’s TIMING is “still impeccable. He is ready to let the universe know that “it is finished. While waiting for His church to get her act together, He is willing to hang on a bit longer so that more will hear the good news”.

Interns at work in the Geoscience Lab.



From Non Sequitur, by Wiley
(click image to enlarge)

Monday, September 27, 2010

The origin of the expression, "Missing the Boat"



Modified comic by Dan Regan of Shoebox Greetings
(click to enlarge)

Noah’s Flood *

Reviewed by Andrew Hanson

If you believe that it the story of the flood found in Genesis 6 and 7 is literally and scientifically true, then read no further. If you wish to refresh your memory regarding the account in Genesis 6 & 7, here it is. But be warned, there’s more.

THE BIBLICAL ACCOUNT beginning with the 13th verse of Genesis and ending with the final verse of Chapter 7 (NIV)

Genesis 6
So God said to Noah, "I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. Make a roof for it and finish the ark to within 18 inches of the top. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons' wives with you. You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.

Genesis 7
The LORD then said to Noah, "Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth. Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.

And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him.

Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood. Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah. And after the seven days the floodwaters came on the earth.

In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.

On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark. They had with them every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings. Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark. The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah. Then the LORD shut him in.

For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet. Every living thing that moved on the earth perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.

The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.

Genesis 8
But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky. The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible.

After forty days Noah opened the window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. But the dove could find no place to set its feet because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark. He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him. By the first day of the first month of Noah's six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.

Then God said to Noah, "Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it."

So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons' wives. All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds—everything that moves on the earth—came out of the ark, one kind after another.

If, you wish to consider a less catastrophic account of what happened, Noah’s Flood by Ryan and Pitman “is a well-written tale that deserves an audience.” ** If you are numbered in that audience, continue.

William Ryan and Walter Pitman are convinced that around 5600 B.C., the rising Mediterranean broke through the Bosporus Strait into what is now the Black Sea, then a large freshwater lake. They authors estimate that “ten cubic miles of water poured through each day, two hundred times what flows over Niagara Falls.” They believe that geological evidence supports their contention that "the Bosporus flume roared and surged at full spate for at least three hundred days", and inundated 60,000 square miles of land. The surviving people and animals that lived on the fertile plains that were the margins of the lake were scattered. The book speculates as to who those people were and where they went. For Ryan and Pitman, this cataclysmic event is in all probability the biblical flood and the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh.

While they support their findings with 256 biblical, geologic, anthropological, historical, and linguistic references, their conclusions are regarded by many of their colleagues as tentative at best.

* Noah’s Flood: New Scientific Discoveries About the Event That Changed History, Simon & Shuster, 1998, by William B. F. Ryan and Walter C. Pitman, senior scientists at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and recipients of the Shepard Medal of excellence in marine geology.

** Joyce L. Ogburn, Old Dominion Univ., Norfolk, VA, 1998.


REVIEWERS NOTES: I was asked by an editor to (1) reflect on what the theological importance or implications would be if something were found that everyone agreed to be Noah's ark and (2) assess the strength of the evidence on behalf of the book's claims.

In contrast to my short straightforward response to the first part of this request, I have referenced Wikipedia in order to supply the reader with research findings that both support and question the book’s thesis. I’ve also supplied more recent support of Ryan and Pitman’s flood theory.

(1)
There is no evidence that a boat that in any way resembles Noah’s ark exists anywhere. Reports that an ark has been discovered under the ice on Mt. Ararat are hoaxes.

(2a)
For an up-to-date critical evaluation of the book, I suggest Wikipedia for references and graphics.

(2b)
In support of the book’s general thesis, I suggest the following dispatches at this website. I have included edited versions of Dispatch 10 and 12. They are interviews of Chief Archaeologist Dr. Fredrik Hiebert

September 9, 2000
DISPATCH 10

The following are abridged transcripts of interviews with Dr. Fredrik Hiebert, Chief Archaeologist of the Black Sea 2000 Expedition. Hiebert is a professor of anthropology and archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, adjunct researcher at the Institute for Exploration, and an adjunct professor at the Institute of Nautical Archaeology. The interviews were conducted by online correspondent Sean Markey in the expedition control room onboard the Northern Horizon following the expedition team’s visual inspection of the settlement site with the remotely operated vehicle Little Hercules.

“From my perspective, what we’ve done today is of world importance. We’ve discovered, for the first time, an ancient settlement which is located underwater in the Black Sea which relates to the settlements that we’ve been finding on land on the Black Sea coastline.

During [the] time...the Black Sea was a freshwater lake, it had a rich coastline. It had been proposed that people had been living around this coastline. But we had no proof of this. It was just an idea.

This morning we went back to one of the most promising of these sites. A site that was located right along a submerged river valley. A place that according to our on-land archaeological surveys would have been a key place for human settlement. As we approached the site, we were coming along the flat, slightly sloping plane of the bottom of Black Sea today. It was almost featureless. And then we approached our target and it was quite distinct. There really was very little change around this site. But as we approached it, we found a rectangular site some four meters, or 10-12 feet, across and maybe double that in length. It was astonishing, because rather than being a typical underwater feature that we’d seen before—a shipwreck or an anchor or any other of the debris that you might see on the bottom of the Black Sea—here were hewn beams in a rectangular form along with branches that seemed to be stuck in layers of mud. What we were looking at was a melted building made out of wattle and daub. Now, this is the typical type of construction for the ancient inhabitants along the Black Sea coast.

And here we’re seeing it under 300 feet [91 meters] of water. It was one of the most astonishing things I’ve ever seen.

We had a chance to drive over that and inspect it very carefully with our remotely operated vehicle. As we went very carefully—practically inch by inch—over this site we began to see stone tools. These stone tools are pecked stone...not small blades...but seemed to be pecked or ground stone. I don’t know if they’re hammers or chisels. We are not touching anything. We’re just photographing them. We’re mapping them so that we have a good understanding of what this site is. So I’m not actually sure what these stone tools are. But it’s quite clear that they were worked by human hands. Some of them appear to be quite strongly polished.

We also found fragments of ceramics. These ceramics were literally exposed on the floor of this structure. It was amazing to see this because we imagine that the sediments would have covered them. But here on the ancient coastline sedimentation is so low that the ceramics were exposed. We were able to see that this structure more or less is in the shape of what we would think is an ancient house. It had ceramics. It had these ground stone implements. It had the clear remains of walls made out of mud with sticks and beams as their major construction.

This is a remarkable find. We need to study it more to understand its date. And also to look at the surrounding land to understand this building in the context of its settlement structure all along the coast.

So this is the first of what I hope to be is a really exciting series of discoveries this season, looking for ancient settlements along the submerged coastline.


October 6, 2000
DISPATCH 12

Since the report of the discovery of the habitation site (site 82) and its initial reporting the following has happened: We were granted permission from the Turkish authorities to move to a further stage of investigation—sampling and actual testing of some of our observations. Thus, when we went in and investigated the site further, we found that suggested mud slabs were actually stone, and that the suggested stone artifacts were actually wood, etc. We now have samples from the site which we collected. (They are in my refrigerator at the moment.) I am sending them for scientific analysis.

Scientific Method in Action

We are in the process of learning about this flooded coastline. Every exposed rock and stone we see was clearly part of the landscape when this was dry land. It is very exciting to be the first to see this landscape since it flooded. With the discovery of this site, we now are in a position to fit it into our larger picture of the ancient cultures of the Black Sea area.

Archaeologists use the scientific method. Our assignment of this site as an ancient habitation site is a hypothesis. To test this hypothesis, we first need to have a model (something which is only partially known or unknown) in our heads of what the objects we could see were, and how they came to lie together on the floor of the Black Sea.

While the video images taken from the ROVs look just like ancient structures that we had seen on land, we had to consider other scenarios that could have produced a similar arrangement. Other interpretations that we must consider are that we were observing a natural geological outcrop that had accumulated wood over the years, a broken-up shipwreck, or even the debris from a modern depth charge.

Our job as scientists is now to devise tests that would allow us to exclude these interpretations and/or to offer support to our hypothesis the site was a human-built and used archaeological site. Using still cameras, we compiled a photographic map of all the features that we could see. Armed with this tantalizing picture, we approached the Turkish Ministry of Culture for permission to sample the site for scientific analysis. We were granted permission and the Northern Horizon returned to the site location. The opportunity to visit this submerged site was the thrill of a lifetime.

Twist of the Depths!

We jury-rigged a special recovery device for Little Hercules—an experimental addition that was put together on the boat.

It worked! We watched on the video while a flexible probe touched and lifted some of the objects. The texture, density, and shape of the objects on the screen became clear as Little Herc circled only a few feet above the Black Sea floor. For now, this is the closest that we will ever get to actually “seeing” the site with our own eyes. Later, a sampling bag allowed us to raise a few carefully chosen artifacts and other objects to the surface for examination and testing. In addition to these objects, we collected samples of the mucky deposit on the surface of the site.

What did this device allow us to learn? First of all, we found that the sedimentary blocks that appeared to be clay are actually stone, not mud. Second we retrieved several of the artifacts, and they turned out to be wood, not stone.

Many Neolithic and Bronze Age buildings have such stone foundations, just as many have wood and mud type architecture. We have to understand that people in the past used many types of building techniques, depending on the situation (I like to use the Three Little Pigs concept) during the same period. A culture can build buildings out of sticks, brick and stone. It is quite likely that the stones could have made a solid foundation for a building that was partially constructed under the ground, like a shallow pithouse. This new hypothesis is based upon learning from our testing and revising our model. Following this new scenario, the original surface might have been eroded by water to leave the surface that we see today.

Our closer look at the wooden artifacts confirms our first impression that they are the result of shaping by humans. They have smooth, symmetrical shapes and unmistakable traces of drilling to produce the holes visible on the videos. We don’t know a lot about ancient wooden tools since wood is rarely preserved in any form, but we can compare these objects with the tools for woodworking that have been found at sites on land, and with wooden objects produced by craftsmen in today’s traditional societies.

Scientific Analysis Begins

With samples in hand, we rapidly developed a plan for the analysis of materials that might represent an ancient land environment but which have also been in a cold, wet, Black Sea environment for an unknown number of years. Once we had consulted with an expert on conserving waterlogged wood samples, we proceeded with our highest priority, dating the wood samples using the supersensitive accelerator mass spectrometer (AMS) radiocarbon technique. Only tiny samples are used for this technique. We chose fragments of six worked and natural wooden objects to submit to the laboratory. (Extracting these fragments did not destroy the objects.)

One test of the integrity of an archaeological site is whether a series of radiocarbon dates fall in a cluster in time. If we are told that the dates are quite recent, or represent a wide range of dates, we will have to reconsider our hypothesis of how the site was formed.

Dates will be reported to us in a matter of weeks. In the meantime, we are reaching out to a variety of scholars who we hope will be able to help us understand what an undersea site might look like. Using a new, refined model of what to expect if site 82 is an ancient structure, we plan to study the artifacts and deposits at a number of levels. The muck will be analyzed to determine its microscopic structure, its phosphate content (a signal for human occupation and trash), its possible content of charred or waterlogged seeds, bones, and shells, and any occurrence of pollen or silica cell wall remains of crops or other land plants. The wood itself will be identified and compared to modern and prehistoric forest cover in northern Turkey. At the same time, we will be examining the contours of the Black Sea floor to most precisely locate site 82 in its geographic context, both during the period it would have been on dry land, and since the time it must have flooded.

Our visual “fix” on site 82 using remote video technology was immediate and compelling. Now, we are excited to be able to test and evaluate our impressions, and to tie these finds to our other research projects on ancient Black Sea peoples.

Did you ever wonder why the unicorn is a mythical beast?



Comic from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin.
(click for enlarged image)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

“Going Forward” can sometimes be a problem.



Comic modified from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin.
(click for enlarged image)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

September 9, 2010
Vol. 187, No. 30

GENERAL COMMENTS
This issue is pretty standard fare. There are two editorials. One calling for civility in dialogue, the other gently reminding members that attendance at the GC session is not a ticket to Heaven; an interesting historical piece that chronicles a late 19th century crisis in the church; a circumspect admonition directed to church leaders; a warning to non tithe payers; an essay about the “scars of darkness”; an explanation of the word “Shema”; an outreach initiative; Olympic lessons of perseverance, self-denial, and trust; a reflection on the importance of a heavenly destination; a reminder that many of our neighbors need more than just our prayers, and a rather na├»ve but sweet ode to love and marriage. Details follow the news.

WORLD NEWS AND PERSPECTIVES
Tom Hughes, an Adventist pastor and biker road 1,300 miles from Ohio to South Dakota’s Sturgis biker rally to distribute 1,200 copies of Steps to Jesus: the Ride of Your Life, a.k.a. Steps To Christ.

Ted Wilson took part in the two-day 100th anniversary of the Adventist Church’s presence in Venezuela. 13,000 packed the Caracas Polyhedron on August 7, and 7,000 Adventists gathered in the Feria Bicentenario Center in Barquisimeto.

Shirley Burton, Former GC Communication Director, died on August 16. She was 83.

The U.S. Humane Society president, Wayne Pacelle addressed an appreciative audience of GC employees on August 17.

COMMENT
Bill Knott calls for civil dialogue WHEN WE DISAGREE.

“The spate of bitter and public attacks—some by denominational employees—upon the decisions and collective wisdom of the church at its recent General Conference session in Atlanta has surely marked a new low, even for a ‘dialogical faith’ that has clearly been both blessed and chastened by its history of disagreements.”

Bill, I’m all for reasoned debate, but governance by fiat, i.e., the proclamation that an official literal interpretation of the Bible trumps scholarly and scientific evidence, makes dialogue impossible. All that is left is argument accompanied by feelings of vindication on one side and frustration and despair on the other.

Perhaps those official proclamations created Carlos Medley’s vague feeling of unease and prompted him to write DON’T MISS OUT.

“While I came away from the session…I couldn’t help feeling like I missed something…Jesus warned us, ‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you”’  (Matt. 7:21-23).

REVIEWS
CONFRONTING A CRISIS—PART I by Kameron DeVasher is an account of the Holy Flesh movement that swept Adventism at the end of the 19th century.

“Borrowing the Salvation Army Band model that was popular at the time, S. S. Davis and his revival team turned the typically cognitive Adventist worship service into a patently Pentecostal worship experience, all in the hopes of bringing people to full-body surrender to Christ that would transform their sinful nature into Christ’s sinless nature.”

SCARS OF DARKNESS by Clifford Goldstein uses the story of Arai, a disfigured Hiroshima survivor, to describe the devastating effects of evil. According to Goldstein, there is no moral middle ground. Our task as Christians is to determine “what actions, what words, what motives are Christ’s, and what actions, words, and motives are Satan’s; that’s knowing the difference between good and evil.”

In TITHING: WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME? Mark Kellner quotes G. Edward Reid, Stewardship Director for the North American Division extensively.

“One of the biggest things I encounter is people who get sideways of somebody in the church or in the conference office, and say, ‘I’m going to send my tithe to XYZ’... but the tithe, according to the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy, is totally nondiscretionary…It is holy and not to be diverted...When Jesus returns He’s going to say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ to the group who managed their money faithfully.”

GOING FOR THE GOLD by Wayne Wasiczko compares Christ to an Olympic champion.

“By finishing the race He’d begun, Christ made it possible for all of us sinners to receive eternal life. May each one of us persevere in our personal race, crossing the finish line with Christ, and receiving from Him the most important medal imaginable: eternal life.”

When Andrew McChesney, our intrepid Moscow reporter, is asked, “Where are you from?” his answer is a mysterious IT DEPENDS. But even though he doesn’t know where he’s from, he knows were he’s going

Debbie Rivera explains the Jewish word, SHEMA.

“Jewish culture interprets and applies this passage to families. Twice each day—morning and evening—parents repeat the Shema (“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!”) to their children, beginning in infancy. As the children grow they learn to repeat these words themselves, and then continue to do so twice daily for the rest of their lives. Jews also repeat the Shema if they are in danger, and these are the last words they speak when they are taking their final breath on this earth. The Shema was not meant simply to be memorized, however, but reasoned, discussed, and understood.

GIVING LIGHT TO OUR WORLD (GLOW) is an outreach initiative in a number of NAD conferences based on the concept of church members carrying Adventist literature with them wherever they go and handing it out—free of charge—at every opportunity.

Fredrick Russell ‘s WE HAVE THE WHO; NOW FOR THE WHAT challenges our new GC leadership to pay prayerful attention to “where the bus is going”

“The Nominating Committee, with the counsel and input of the General Conference president…dealt with the who part of the leadership team at almost every level of the General Conference organizational sphere. But if leadership stops with just getting the right people on the bus and little attention is given as to where the bus is going, all the forward momentum of the fifty-ninth General Conference session will evaporate in short order.

“My prayer is that before our new leadership team gets immersed in day-to-day activities of 
committees, boards, and travel, it carves out time to head to the “mountain,” for the singular purpose of asking God for direction in advancing the mission of the church.”

Monte Sahlin faithfully chronicles CHURCH TRENDS, and he argues that “this I no time to retreat or cut back in mission-driven investments.

“There are many hurting families in both the church and the community. If the Spirit of Christ truly animates your congregation, it will be doing more to meet the needs of these families.
“There is a chapter on helping the unemployed in Ellen White’s The Ministry of Healing. There is also a practical how-to manual for working with the unemployed in the book Ministries of Compassion, which you can obtain from AdventSource at www.adventsource.org  or (800) 328-0525. It is based on the successful pilot project at the Samaritan Center near Chattanooga, Tennessee.”

Krystal Green reminds readers that JESUS NEVER DEMANDED A PRENUP when he created Adam and Eve.

Blind Faith + Reality = Tragedy



Comic modified from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin.
(click for enlarged image)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Reviewing Adventist World, NAD Edition

September 2010
Vol. 6, No. 9

Adventist World is free online. For that reason, I only review or comment on articles and editorials that I believe to be of special interest.

GENERAL COMMENTS
This issue supplies an overall view of what happened at the 59th General Conference Session: who was elected, what it was like to be a delegate, and what was accomplished. Most of the information was old news if you had been following the action via Adventist Review/Adventist World 8 General Conference Bulletin Supplements. (That’s not to say that the magazine and even the online version are bereft of additional stories and technical reporting.)

Four items attracted my special attention: TAKING IT UP A NOTCH, an interview of Dan Jackson by Bill Knott and Mark Kellner; the 5 Languages of Apology in FAMILY: ENJOYING THE JOURNEY TOGETHER by Carol and David Tasker; WHAT IF, by Angel Manuel Rodriguez; and LOVE’S FINAL APPEAL by Mark Finley.

REVIEWS
Dan Jackson, our new NAD president made it crystal clear that he is “by faith a dogmatic believer in a short-term, literal, six-day creation”.


The frequent use of Gary Chapman’s 5 Languages of Apology are of vital importance when it comes to establishing lasting human relationships.
  • Expressing REGRET 
“I am sorry”
  • Accepting RESPONSIBILITY 
“I was wrong
  • Making RESTITUTION 
“What can I do to make it right?”
  • Genuinely REPENTING 
“I’ll try not to do that again”
  • Requesting FORGIVENESS 
“Will you please forgive me?”

WHAT IF? Angel Manuel Rodriguez’ speculation about what would have happened if Jesus had sinned, raises serious questions as to his fitness to be director of the Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference.

“This question, phrased in different ways, is often asked. And I’m always reluctant to deal with it because it is an invitation to speculate on matters about which we know nothing...Since the biblical God is by definition unbeatable, our question remains almost unanswered. Had the human nature of the Son of God failed, God Himself would have failed. But He did not. Amen!”


In his Bible Study, LOVE’S FINAL APPEAL, Mark A. Finley proposes that the story of the Biblical Flood reveals God’s “compassion” and “everlasting love” for the human race.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.



Thanks to The Cartoonist

Comic modified from Frank & Ernest by Thaves
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The Bible Unearthed

By Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman
Reviewed by Andy Hanson

The Bible Unearthed is an exciting read, especially for those of us who have questioned the historical and literal accuracy of biblical accounts before the time of the Kings. (If the recorded lifespan of Shem is accurate, he survived Abraham.) The Jewish Encyclopedia does not make that claim, nor do reputable academics. The reasons are numerous and easy to document.

The book also provides archeological support for the idea that the biblical history of this period and the subsequent historical narratives were written to support the theological assumption that God rewarded Israel and Judah’s “good” behavior and punished them when they “did evil in the sight of the Lord”.

That theological bias was the guiding truth and underlying assumption of the scribes, priests, and prophets who wrote Old Testament history. The Moabites were “bad”, i.e. worshiped “other gods”, and therefore the story of the Israelites’ attempted genocide was an act of god. (Thank goodness Naomi survived.) If the Israelite army was defeated, it was because god was punishing the nation for the sins of its kings, idol worship, and/or marrying “foreign” wives.

The Bible Unearthed allows modern Christians and Adventist theologians to escape the dilemma of trying to amalgamate the brutal god of the Old Testament with the loving God of the New.

It is important for the reader to know that I am not an archaeologist. I have, however, determined that the reputations of Finkelstein and Silberman are exemplary. Larry Geraty is a personal friend of the authors and testifies to their integrity.(1) Baruch Halpern, author of "The First Historians: The Hebrew Bible and History" lauds the book as "The boldest and most exhilarating synthesis of the Bible and archaeology in fifty years."

Before I let the authors speak for themselves, I want to make it clear that this book has enhanced my admiration for the redactors who so carefully recounted the biblical stories, prophecies, poetry, historical accounts, proverbs, and drama found in the Old Testament in such a way that the serious student is challenged intellectually and spiritually to determine what really happened. As far as I am concerned, the authors’ summary statement that concludes this review has the ring of truth.

In the Prologue, Finkelstein and Silberman tell their version of how, why, and when the literature of the Old Testament was created.

“The world in which the Bible was created was not a mythic realm of great cities and saintly hero's, but a tiny, down-to-earth kingdom where people struggled for their future against the all -too -human fears of war, poverty, injustice, disease, famine, and drought. The historical saga contained in the Bible--from Abraham's encounter with God and his journey to Canaan, to Moses’ deliverance of the children of Israel from bondage, to the rise and fall of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah--was not a miraculous revelation, but a brilliant product of the human imagination. It was first conceived-- as recent archaeological findings suggest-- during the span of two or three generations, about twenty-six-hundred years ago. Its birthplace was the kingdom of Judah, a sparsely settled region of shepherds and farmers, ruled from an out-of-the-way royal city precariously perched in the heart of the hill country on a narrow ridge between steep, rocky ravines.

“During a few extraordinary decades of spiritual ferment and political agitation toward the end of the seventh century BCE, an unlikely coalition off Judahite court officials, scribes, priests, peasants, and prophets came together to create a new movement. At its core was a sacred scripture of unparalleled literary and spiritual genius. It was an epic saga woven together from an astonishingly rich collection of historical writings, memories, legends, folktales, anecdotes, royal propaganda, prophecy, and ancient poetry. Partly an original composition, partly adapted from earlier visions and sources, that literary masterpiece would undergo further editing and elaboration to become a spiritual anchor not only for the descendents of the people of Judah but for communities all over the world.” (2) The Prologue, pages 1 & 2

“The Bible's integrity and, in fact, its historicity, do not depend on dutiful full historical ‘proof’ of any of its particular events or personalities, such as the parting of the Red Sea, the trumpet blasts that toppled the walls of Jericho, or David's slaying of Goliath with a single shot of his sling. The power of the biblical saga stems from its being a compelling and coherent narrative expression of the timeless themes of a people's liberation, continuing resistance to oppression, and quest for social equality. It eloquently expresses the deeply rooted sense of shared origins, experiences, and destiny that every human community needs in order to survive.” Page 318


(1) Andy. I know both Finkelstein and Silberman well; they are personal friends. In the current jargon, they would both be considered "minimalists"--that is, scholars who try to pull biblical history down late, i.e. David and Solomon are minor chieftains who left little archaeological evidence, most of the OT books are very late and often untrustworthy historically, etc. Yes, their book is worth a Spectrum review because they are both well known and respected in the field. Finkelstein is a gifted archaeologist at Tel Aviv University while Silberman is really a journalist, but one who is very knowledgeable about the Bible and archaeology. Both of them have a more skeptical ("liberal") bent than I am comfortable with but I agree, the book reads well and has an interesting thesis. LarryGeraty

(2) The authors go to great lengths to establish the archaeological evidence to support this statement. However, in the cover feature in the February 25, 2010, Adventist Review, ANOTHER BATTLE OVER DAVID AND GOLIATH, Michael G. Hasel reports on current archeological discoveries in the Holy Land that he believes may validate the historicity of the biblical account.

Reality is in the mind of the administrator.



Modified from the comic Dilbert, by Scott Adams
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Using Time Wisely: Illustration Accompanying Chapter 5, Employees Underground Survival Manual, Anon Publishing



Modified from the comic Dilbert, by Scott Adams
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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Terror, The Only Evangelistic Bullet in Boonstra’s gun




Modified from the comic Dilbert, by Scott Adams
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Reviewing the Adventist Review

August 26, 1010
Vol. 187, No. 29
www.adventistreview.org/issue_toc.php?issue=2010-1529

GENERAL COMMENTS
Once in a while, the Review blows my mind. This time it’s the goofy cover cartoon, “page 7”, and the weirdest illustration ever, for a piece by Ellen White, no less!

WORLD NEWS AND PERSPECTIVES
The ASI convention in Orlando, Florida, was a success. 2000 people showed up for the Sabbath service, and members pledged 1.8 million dollars for missions. Speakers included Mark Finley and Ted and Nancy Wilson.

The death toll in the Pieter Wessels Frail Care facility fire in South African is now 22. Researchers at Loma Linda and George Mason University have made a significant breakthrough in Alzheimer detection. Dowel Chow is now president of Adventist World Radio.

Jamaica’s Northern Caribbean University team of Dwayne Samuels, Markel Mairs, Shawn McLean, and Derron Brown, took first place in the category of Interoperability at the 2010 World Microsoft Imagine Cup, held this year in Warsaw, Poland.

REVIEWS
Stephen Chavez’ editorial, LIFELINES, is a celebration of friendship.

WHAT THE AUSSIES TAUGHT ME by Roy Adams involves the ingestion of Marmite (pronounced MAR-myet), a yeast extract spread on food, like butter, and second chances.

PAGE 7 is a cautionary tale about the effect education has on an institutionally fostered belief like “We are living in the last days of earth’s history” and “Jesus is coming soon”. This study suggests that the Adventist emphasis on tertiary educational is counterproductive when considered in relationship to overall membership growth. It also suggests that evangelistic efforts organized around the imminent Second Coming will be most successful with “those with a high school education or lower”. (To read the full survey and all responses, click here)

(click to enlarge)

Leo R. Van Dolson might be taken for a progressive if he’s not careful. In his VOICE WITH A DIFFERENCE, he includes this paragraph:

“Actually, the Ten Commandments are merely God’s minimums of Christlike behavior. As Jesus pointed out, there are no maximums. The more Christlike we become, the greater the challenge that looms ahead. There always is room to become more Christlike. But it is impossible for us 
to accomplish it on our own. Only by God’s power at work in us can we achieve those ideals that are higher than the highest human thought can reach. That is what Jesus was trying to impress on the minds of those who felt that the highest ideal was to be like the Pharisees.”

CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE is another report from our intrepid Moscow reporter, Andrew McChesney. In this installment from his life and times, he and God take credit for the success of the Russian newspaper he works for.

When he was growing up Adventist, Lynell LaMountain got involved with BUMPERS, SANDBOXES, AUTOGRAPHS, AND THE POWER OF JESUS. Two quotes from this cover feature are memorable. “I’m part of a freedom movement—I’m part of a liberation force that’s carrying the good news to people.” And “The number of people at my resurrection is far more important than the number of people at my funeral.”

The words and sentiment of SPIRIT-DRIVEN by Ellen G. White are overshadowed by this creepy illustration.



EVEN THOUGH, NEVERTHELESS by Gwen Ashley is the most thoughtful piece in this issue.

“Even though” and “nevertheless”; I’ve come to realize that these words [of my mother] are loaded with enormous spiritual implications. They say something important about a person’s attitude and life perspective. These words separate two opposing positions and point up the tension between those positions. “Even though” acknowledges that there is indeed evil in the world, because of Satan. But “nevertheless” affirms that there is also good, thanks to God. Most important, these words confirm that good will overcome evil.

BIBLES FOR A NEW LIFE, reported by Sandra Blackmer updates this special project funded by Review readers and Hope for Humanity.

“Through the support of Hope for Humanity, more than 30,000 [Indian] women have benefited from the literacy classes,” Kore says. “Although some of them could not go beyond signing their names, all have heard health messages and received counseling and tips on how to have a better quality of life. This has made a positive impact on the families, the churches, and the neighborhoods.”

In 2009, 3,756 students (1,771 Adventists, 428 other Christians, and the rest Hindus and Muslims) regularly attended literacy classes. More than 3,700 completed the course; 221 accepted Jesus as their Savior; and 26 new Adventist congregations were organized. Although being able to read and write is something most of us take for granted, for the women in the literacy program, it dramatically changes not only their own lives but also the lives of their families. Personal stories in SUD’s Women’s Ministries Department’s 2009 closing report evidence these life-changing results. (Learn more at www.hope4.com)

LASIK SURGERY—A GOOD ALTERNATIVE? Allan R. Handysides and Peter N. Landless offer their usual good advice about LASIK surgery and Alzheimer’s disease.

‘We suggest that you consult a reputable ophthalmologist who is experienced in the procedure, and ask them all your questions so you know exactly what to expect.”

“There is still a lot we need to learn about Alzheimer’s, and though many factors that seem to influence the disease have been identified, none prevents the disease absolutely. Until we find the cause and mechanism, we do well to live in a way that promotes  all-round health.”

MORE LIKE FALLING IN LOVE, PART 1 is Jimmy Phillips’ take on intimate relationships and the value of communication.

“Our relationship with God, in ideal form, is meant to mirror our most intimate human relationship. It should be more than acquaintance or even friendship. It’s marriage—for this life and beyond. God even says it Himself, often referring to the church—and the individuals who form it—as His bride. In theory, we all understand this concept. In reality, especially when it comes to communication (i.e., prayer), we don’t always practice it.”

ETC—AT REST
BATES, Dorothy Gladys Rennewantz Oliver Noyes—b. July 24, 1911, Dayton, Wash.; d. Mar. 6, 2010, Visalia, Calif.
GRIFFITH, Barbara J.—b. July 17, 1931, San Francisco, Calif.; d. Jan. 14, 2010, San Diego, Calif.
HEMME, Leeta E.—b. Apr. 24, 1919, Chowchilla, Calif.; d. Apr. 4, 2010, Meadow Vista, Calif.
HILDE, Dorothea E.—b. Feb. 26, 1913, Williston, N.Dak.; d. Dec. 16, 2009, Castle Rock, Colo.
WILLISON, Clark M.—b. Nov. 12, 1912, Hickory Corners, Mich.; d. March 30, 2009, Orange Beach, Ala.

Melissa Walden’s SUNDAY PREACHER’S LADY is the story about a “ woman “who through a simple act of kindness, changed the direction of [a woman’s] life and gave her hope and the assurance of God’s love and care. She would be forever grateful for her compassion”.

Why do you suppose cartoonists love the Universal Flood story?



From Non Sequitur, by Wiley
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Leadership Made Easy



Modified from the comic Dilbert, by Scott Adams
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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Thursday, September 2, 2010

In Which Direction?



Modified from the comic Dilbert, by Scott Adams
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God-Given Nature

Written for my SDA friends specifically, but also applicable to other denominations including branches of Friends--I addressed the Biblical texts as best I could.

by Kim Ranger

Kim Ranger is a Quaker and member of Grand Rapids Michigan Meeting. She has recently completed a two-year sojourn with Seventh-day Adventists. She is a senior librarian of Arts and Humanities at Grand Valley State University.

The official statement from Adventist.org entitled "Seventh-day Adventist Position Statement on Homosexuality" asserts that “sexual intimacy belongs only within the marital relationship of a man and a woman. This was the design established by God at creation. The Scriptures declare: ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh’ (Gen. 2:24, NIV).” Yet sex is a god-given impulse, not evil in and of itself. This verse isn’t prescriptive, meaning that all men must leave their families and be married, nor does it rule out other reasons to leave one’s parents’ home. It tries to describe why men and women are drawn together joyfully—as helpers, interdependent companions. It doesn’t say that other types of partnerships are prohibited!

However, the SDA official statement does go on to say that “Sexual acts outside the circle of a heterosexual marriage are forbidden (Lev. 20:7-21; Rom. 1:24-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-11).”

Within the cited Leviticus passage, verse 20:9 says that “All who curse father or mother shall be put to death” (NRSV). There are those who would argue that we cannot pick and choose which laws in Leviticus we obey and disobey, yet certainly we would not execute children who curse their parents. If we were to pick and choose which laws to obey/disobey, then this particular Levitical injunction, as with the wearing of mixed-fiber clothing, is no longer relevant to our society. However, the more compelling argument comes from Christ having superseded the Torah laws and ordinances. Rom. 10:6 “For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Eph 2:15, “He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances….” Paul’s letter to the Galatians also speaks to blind obedience to the ordinances, especially 5:4, “You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from Grace.” Hebrews 10:1 states that “the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities….”

Romans 1:24-27 refers to those who do not honor or thank God and who make images of creatures to worship instead of worshipping the one God—and thus they do not love God or neighbor but express toward their fellow humans “acts of exploitative dominance or lust, not love” (Marston). That “God gave them up to degrading passions” (Rom. 1:26) concerns God’s abandonment of idolaters, and should not be read as His cursing those who love and are committed to each other and God.

1 Cor. 6:9 addresses male prostitutes and sodomites—which indicates sexual abuse of children, the forcible rape of those who were foreigners or guests, and/or sex outside of committed relationships. Sodomy was also used to indicate copulation with animals. Forcible anal or oral-genital violation of an unconsenting person (be they child, woman, man, or animal) is wrong and is thus defined as illegal, as well as immoral.

Regarding 1 Cor. 6:9-11, reflect also on 1 Cor. 2:11-16. 1 Cor. 2:11 says, “For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God.” I was challenged sharply once when I stated that the nature of being gay or lesbian is “God-given.” The nature of lesbian/gay/bisexual (LGB) people isn’t yet truly understood by any of us; nevertheless, our spirituality is of God and I don’t doubt that sexual orientation also comes from God, just as one’s spiritual nature does. My orientation seems to be a basic part of who I am, just as my contemplative disposition is.

As humans who can understand only a small part of what God is, who are we to decree that certain groups of people must not live out their connection to God and each other? 1 Cor. 2:15-16: “Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny. ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’” Who would be so bold as to tell God that LGB people are not His? 1 Cor. 3:16 says, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” Yes, even those of us who are not heterosexual! Read 1 Cor. 4:5 on not judging others; “God will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.” Each person can choose how to act based on his/her character and temperament, yet integrity requires acting in accord with one’s deepest self.

1 Cor. 3:17, “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” This seems to me to be an exhortation to those who disfellowship and shun lesbians and gays who have entered into relationships, and try to nullify and change the basic integrity of LGB people! 1 Cor. 4:7 “What do you have that you did not receive?” Sexual orientation is a gift of God.

1 Cor. 5:9-11 exhorts us not to associate with immoral persons—yet if we don’t allow same-sex marriages, then we define immorality, instead of God. We judge and condemn, and thus will be condemned. Romans 10:11 “The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame,’” i.e., God accepts all, and who are we to judge, shame and destroy our neighbors?

The SDA official statement also contains as justification: “Jesus Christ reaffirmed the divine creation intent: ‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two, but one’ (Matt. 19:4-6, NIV).” In this passage Jesus defines remarriage after divorce as being adultery—why is it taken out of context and interpreted as addressing same-sex relationships? As previously stated, it is neither prescriptive (meaning that each and every man will marry a woman) nor, since it addresses remarriage, should it be read as proscriptive regarding same-sex matrimony. More relevant is Heb 13:4, which says, “Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” Same-sex marriages should be held to the same standards regarding adultery, letting God be the judge. Yet not only “heterosexual” marriage should be honored by all. If we limit marriage to “one man and one woman” then marriage certainly cannot be revered by all, since all do not honor those who respect and wish to enter into the covenant.

The SDA definition of same-sex relationships as sinful forces people to behave in ways that deny their own integrity. But the real question is about how and why we fall in love with another person—and the answer seems to be derived from a mixture of elements including biochemistry, environment, and God. Authentic integrity can include living a life of deep commitment to another person. Same-sex relationships do include the healthy, consensual, physical expression of ongoing care and interest (i.e., sex).

At their best, romantic relationships are founded on spiritual connection—the two people connected with each other and with God. Sin is essentially about separation from God, self, and others. Marriage is about the union of two people caring for each other in relationship to God. With this understanding, why would the marriage of gay or lesbian couples be sinful? That would be a contradiction in terms.

The way we see God is the basis for our response to others. If we understand God to be threatening, domineering, condemning, controlling, abusive, then we carry out these beliefs in our actions toward others. If we are faithful to a loving God, we will practice fidelity in caring not only for our neighbors but also in faithfully uniting with another person in a devoted, healthy relationship. Heb 13:1 “Let mutual love continue.”

Redemption is through faith alone, not works (which includes acts). But as David Glenn pointed out in his sermon on July 9, 2005, faith in our salvation frees us up to do good works. We are instructed time and again to answer when called by God. When two people feel called together by God, an essential part of answering faithfully consists of defining a loving relationship. It would be sinful to ignore that calling, denying the truth of God’s vision for us and the strength of His will.

Most LGBT people I know are very spiritual, very cognizant of “that of God” within their lives. It is God who calls souls into community with Him. However, it is people who decide who may and may not be part of a particular religious community or take part in specific rites. Religion is the form in which groups define the way they reach out to God. It is also a way of codifying human behavior. As humans who can understand only a small part of what God is, who are we to decree that certain groups of people must not live out their connection to God and each other, in healthy, consensual relationships? Our predecessors denied the right of marriage to African-Americans because they were considered less than human. Until recently, our laws restricted marriage between people of different races. Our predecessors also believed that left-handedness was sinful and persecuted those who insisted on using their dominant hand. Should we follow in the same direction? Again, let God judge, and let us not set ourselves above Him.

Ellen G. White wrote compassionate arguments for racial equality; many of them could easily be applied to equality for LGB people. “Caste is hateful to God. He ignores everything of this character. In His sight the souls of all men are of equal value….without distinction…” (White, Desire of Ages, 403). "You will always find Satan on the side of the oppressor. God does not oppress" (White, Manuscript 5, 47). Why not read her texts in The Southern Work on equal love, reward, salvation, destination, relations, responsibility, and priority?

The standard for Seventh-day Adventist Christian behavior is stated in the church's Fundamental Belief No. 13, "Unity in the Body of Christ:"

In Christ we are a new creation; distinctions of race, culture, learning, and nationality, and differences between high and low, rich and poor, male and female, must not be divisive among us. We are all equal in Christ, who by one Spirit has bonded us into one fellowship with Him and with one another; we are to serve and be served without partiality or reservation.

Meister Eckhart said that, “When God laughs at the soul and the soul laughs at God, the persons of the trinity are begotten. When the Father laughs at the Son and the Son laughs back at the Father, that laughter gives pleasure, that pleasure gives joy, that joy gives love, and that love is the Holy Spirit.” One soul laughing with God—no matter the sex, gender, or sexual orientation—or two souls laughing with each other and God—is that not also part of the Holy Spirit and Trinity?

Works Cited

Coogan, Michael David, Marc Zvi Brettler, Carol A. Newsom, and Pheme Perkins. The New Oxford Annotated Bible: with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books. New Revised Standard Version, 3rd Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Glenn, David. "Why Are We Missing Out?" Central Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Grand Rapids, MI. 9 July 2005.

Marston, Walt. Unpublished Letter to the Editor. 25 March 2005.

White, Ellen Gould Harmon. The Desire of Ages: The Conflict of the Ages Illustrated in the Life of Christ. Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Association, 1940.

White, Ellen Gould Harmon. Manuscript releases: From the Files of the Letters and Manuscripts. Washington, D.C.: E. G. White Estate, [1981?]

White, Ellen Gould Harmon. The Southern Work. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Association, 1966.

[For additional, extensive exegesis of the Biblical passages cited by the SDA statements, see the Seventh-Day Adventist Kinship site at http://www.sdakinship.org/anotherpov/index.htm and Someone to talk to...for families of gays and lesbians, at http://someone-to-talk-to.net/.]

The Impossible Dream



Modified from the comic Non Sequitur, by Wiley
(click to enlarge)

Evangelists and editors take note.



From Non Sequitur, by Wiley
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